Completely uneducated, I went to a used car lot to buy my first car. The first clue telling me I chose the wrong dealer was when I looked in the rear view mirror and saw the salesmen high-fiving each other as I drove the car off the lot. By the time I owned the car for a year I created a new way to drive that involved holding the window up with my elbow, holding the dash in place with my knee, and keeping a list of which accessories shorted out the entire electrical system. Thinking back, that dealer did not have my best interest in mind. For my next purchase, I needed to not only educate myself but find a new place to shop for cars.
With wine, a little education and the right place to shop can also make a big difference in the quality of the product you end up with. For an education, there is a great new book out by wine critic Carolyn Evans-Hammond called Good Better Best Wines. It’s kind of a Consumer Reports for wines where she rates the popular big brand name wines under $15. The reviews are complete with tasting notes and clear photos of the labels. The book is available through Amazon and like the wines she reviews, is under $15.
For a place to shop, look for more wine-focused liquor stores where the staff is passionate about wine. France 44 in Minneapolis, for example, has free wine tasting every Friday and Saturday. It allows you to “test drive” the wine before you buy. Shakopee Wine Cellars offers an interesting twist with its video coupon. You sign up, and then once a week you receive a short video via email featuring the owner’s smiling mug announcing a special deal available only to those on his email list. He often talks about the featured wine so it’s a great way to learn about what you’re buying. Unlike my car dealer, he’s not trying to get rid of the lemons. Rather, the owner finds a wine he likes and then charms the distributors for a super price that he can use for the video.
This week’s recommendation:
Souverain 2008, Alexander Valley Chardonnay ($15.99): This wine is the purple Buick of the wine world: It’s big and it’s smooth and doesn’t apologize for lumbering along in the left lane with its huge, delicious flavors of oak and butter.